Barely Legally

Confessions of a Moot Court Bailiff

Google Gets Design

Cliff Kuang at Fast Co Design, on How Google Finally Got Design:

Google has come so far, despite years of self-defeating battles over what constitutes good design. “When we brought up design at Google, people used to scoff,” says John Wiley, a designer who, in nine years at Google, has seen the company transform. “It made it hard for us to hire great design talent because it didn’t seem like we had the full measure of respect for design.” Here’s how an organization that once crowed about testing 42 shades of blue and called that design created a user-savvy organization that even Apple could learn from.

Fascinating story about a bunch of engineers and the designers who know how to make their products as usable as they are useful. Kuang argues – rather persuasively – that Google in fact is making the best-designed mobile software today, and Apple could learn a lot from Google.

The whole thing is great, but the penultimate paragraph almost undercuts the premise of the article. Kuang mentions that there are still some obstacles for Google:

For one, the company still has a broad, structural challenge in getting its best designs in front of its users. In fact, less than 10% of all Android devices actually have Lollipop, the first operating system to use Material Design—even though it was first released last fall. The countless devices and operating system flavors that exist out in the wild prevent Google from being able to push out updates to all its mobile uses, en masse. Perhaps in time, Google will solve this problem, by forcing greater adherence to standards in its ecosystems.

On an unrelated note: three days after Kuang’s article was published, Google announced an even newer version of Android that 10% of their customers will be using in another year. If design happens in the woods, and there’s no one around to appreciate it, it’s probably still good, right?